Eliminating I-70, a Grand Vision for
Vail - Update Report
The Homeowners Association, to assist in framing the public debate about the future of Interstate 70 prepared a white paper report as an overview of I-70 issues confronting the community.
This report includes long-term options available to significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impacts.
Access the full report on the Association’s website.
The threat from I-70 is escalating and impending. A planning effort by
the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) concludes that the Interstate, west from Denver to a point well beyond Vail, must be expanded to accommodate six travel lanes and an additional two lanes for a possible rapid mass transit system. The department is taking its first steps to implement the planned expansion. Construction of $4 billion in programmed improvements is projected to occur over the next twenty years.
future of the community is at risk from the environmental degradation the
projected CDOT expansion would engender.
Traffic volume is expected to double by 2025, and noise levels will
increase by 50% or more. The
desirability of being outdoors in Vail will deteriorate as the chronic noise
and air pollution increases, along with water pollution from road sanding.
investigation by the Association suggests
options which will preserve and improve Vail’s future.
One option is to relocate the Interstate in a bypass tunnel, in which an
expanded I-70 would be constructed under Vail Mountain, from a point just
above the East Vail exit (180) to Dowd Junction.
The second is to bury I-70 in a “cut & cover” tunnel within the interstate
right-of-way through Vail.
in a study of European ski resort communities, found evidence that when
confronted with the same dilemma, these communities created permanent solutions
that protected their environment and culture and preserved the character of the
entire community to the benefit of all inhabitants. The solutions used advanced highway construction techniques to
build both tunnel and cut & cover solutions for expressway traffic; others
employed progressive mass transportation with park and ride technology to
reduce reliance on automobile access all together. The construction technology to undertake these types of projects
in Vail is available.
preliminary rough cost of construction for the bypass tunnel, $3.05 billion, is
less costly than the “cut & cover” method, $3.46 billion. Financing of the bypass tunnel, in theory,
could be accomplished through privatization.
The key to privatization is obtaining Federal approval to allow the
project to be privately financed through tolls. Tolls on sections of the
interstate system will become more commonplace, as Federally sanctioned
privatized interstate projects are already occurring in Virginia, Maryland,
Texas and Illinois. Optional financing
could come from selling development rights generated from the sale of the
current Vail interstate right-of-way to private developers.
The cut & cover method would be financed through the sale of
“air-rights” to developers in its existing right-of-way, covering it with a
concrete lid on which private developments, community facilities, affordable
housing, and expanded facilities for the destination guest could be built. Funds have already been pledged for a Dowd
Junction Bypass tunnel in the Federal and State expansion plan for I-70.
Such a tunnel could be integrated with either “Grand Vision”
option. Funds that would be allocated
to an eventual expansion of I-70 through Vail could also be allocated toward
either the bypass tunnel or cut & cover option.
studies indicate that the less expensive bypass tunnel option would also be
less disruptive to the community and surrounding region. The “cut & cover” method must be staged
to minimize inconvenience to the community during construction and it does not
solve the environmental noise problem for the entire community.
Opening land for development to finance either option will reshape the
community, with opportunities for public improvements and new development. We
recognize that any additional development raises sensitive issues. Importantly, a bypass tunnel might not require
development if toll funded privatization were allowed, assuming sufficient
revenues from this source. As
important, the bypass tunnel will positively affect the quality of life for
every member of the community equitably because all will share in the resulting
environmental and economic benefit.
There is much to be gained by Vail taking
the initiative to propose solutions for itself. The required political, planning and financing processes could
take a decade or longer. Construction of either “Grand Vision” option could
require another decade to execute.
of support from Vail’s full and part-time residents are essential to move the
concept from popular discussion to the community’s long-term agenda. An opportunity to put the matter on
the community’s agenda will occur this summer in conjunction with the Town of
Vail’s 20/20 community visioning program.
If the weight of public opinion is favorable, then either or both the
Town Council and private developers will have support to set the
wheels-in-motion to pursue the ”Grand Vision”.
PFD Print Version.
Rocky Mountain News Coverage of Vail Bypass Tunnel and
Cut & Cover Concepts:
Vail Daily: I70 Coalition want to curb rush hour traffic
Economist: Road to Somewhere